7:30 PM ET, March 16, 2007
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
The Heat extended their winning streak to nine games by beating Sacramento 103-97. Miami is in a virtual tie for first place in the Southeast Division (percentage points behind the Wizards), after trailing Washington by as many as 7½ games (on the morning of Feb. 1). Over the past 12 seasons, the only NBA team to overcome a deficit of more than seven games to win its division was San Antonio in 2002-03 (climbing out of an 8½-game hole). Elias Says
And Eddie Jones is playing like he desperately wants one.
He hit his first five 3-point attempts to stake Miami to a big early lead, and the defending NBA champion Heat extended the NBA's longest current winning streak to nine games with a 103-97 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
"I want to feel what they felt last year," Jones said. "I've always wanted to feel that. I just want to know how it feels. I'm driven by that, just to feel that, to play on the best team, the best in the world."
For now, he'll settle for being on a team virtually tied for first with Washington in the Southeast Division.
Shaquille O'Neal scored 23 points, while Jones and Jason Williams finished with 19 apiece for the Heat (36-29), who've won 14 straight at home and are now two percentage points behind the Wizards (35-28), who were idle Friday and host New Orleans on Saturday.
"We got off to a great start, shot the ball extremely well, moved the ball well, maintained a double-digit lead pretty much throughout," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "Eddie and Jason were on fire with 10 3s, Shaq dominated inside ... we've just got to keep the thing going."
Ron Artest had his first double-double in more than a month, 32 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento, which dropped its fifth straight. Mike Bibby scored 21 points and Shareef Abdur-Rahim added 18 for the Kings.
Kevin Martin, who was averaging 25.8 points in his last 10 games, finished with nine on 3-for-9 shooting for Sacramento, which has lost seven straight against the Heat.
"They're the team we have to measure ourselves up against," Artest said. "They're the defending champs, so that's our measuring stick right now."
Jones went 5-for-6 and Williams 5-for-9 from 3-point range for Miami, which shot a season-best 62 percent (13-for-21) from beyond the arc.
"Give Miami a ton of credit," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "They spaced the floor with their 3-point shooting and put us in a tough position early."
Miami improved to 10-2 since reigning NBA finals MVP Dwyane Wade dislocated his left shoulder, and 16-4 since Jones -- who started the year in Memphis -- returned for his second stint with the Heat.
And Riley is calling Jones' homecoming a "godsend," with good reason.
He's averaged 16.1 points on 53 percent shooting in his last seven games, hitting double digits in all but one of those contests.
"How quickly people forget the type of players we've got in this locker room," Haslem said. "We've got guys who've made All-Stars, who've made a lot of money and had great careers in this league and can still make plays. ... And this is the situation they're used to being in."
Jones had eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, during a 15-0 first-quarter run by Miami, which led 24-17 after the opening period. Another big spurt -- a 25-12 burst to open the second quarter -- gave the Heat a 49-27 edge with 6:01 left until halftime, before the Kings began chipping away.
Artest had nine points in a 3 1/2-minute stretch late in the second, helping Sacramento get to 56-45 at intermission. And when Artest hit a 3-pointer early in the third, the Kings were within 57-48 -- but the Heat went back to the long ball to answer.
Williams hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits 13 seconds after Artest connected, and the Heat went 5-for-9 from behind the arc in the third to take an 84-70 lead into the fourth. Miami's lead stayed in double figures until the final 1:57, and the winning streak continued.
"Guys are contributing all over the place," Jones said. "That's team basketball right there. And we're playing team basketball probably better than anybody right now."
Since acquiring O'Neal, Miami is 40-1 at home in February and March. ... Heat guard Gary Payton strained his right groin in the second quarter and wasn't available for the second half, which meant Quinn played for the second time in Miami's last 10 games. Quinn checked in early in the fourth quarter for Williams, who'd played 18 straight minutes. ... Artest leaped over courtside fans and trotted up a few stairs after knocking a pass away in the third quarter. ... The Kings haven't won in Miami since Dec. 9, 2001.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-74 (.459)||36-66 (.545)|
|3PM-3PA||10-24 (.417)||13-21 (.619)|
|FTM-FTA||19-28 (.679)||18-31 (.581)|
|Fast Break Points||4||24|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (0/0)||22 (1/0)|